USC settles suits with 80 former students who say a school doctor sexually abused them
The University of Southern California says it has reached a settlement with 80 former students who allege they were all sexually abused by a former campus doctor over the course of two decades.
Dennis Kelly, a former campus physician, left USC in 2018, and the following year, six male graduates came forward with allegations that Kelly engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct during appointments, such as rectal examinations.
The former students allege that Kelly also discriminated against them based on their sexual orientation and gender, according to attorneys representing the 80 former students. Of the 80 former students who filed complaints, all were men at the time, with one now identifying as female and with 76 identifying as gay or bisexual.
The men further allege that the university received complaints about Kelly's misconduct but failed to "adequately address them" — allowing for Kelly to continue seeing students. Kelly eventually lost his license to practice medicine in 2020.
Attorneys for the alleged victims said the cases date as far back as the late 1990s, with the latest occurring in 2018.
"The settlement was achieved through the persistence and bravery of our clients who had the strength to come forward to share the harrowing details of their experiences at the USC Student Health Center and the determination to hold USC accountable for its failure to protect its students," attorney Mikayla Kellogg said in a statement.
Kellogg's firm represented 57 of the 80 plaintiffs.
"The settlement today is another step toward closure for our clients who finally feel a sense of recognition and validation for speaking up," her statement adds.
Since the filing of the original civil lawsuit in 2019, 74 additional individuals have come forward, which has brought the total number of claimants to 80, Kellogg said.
In a statement to NPR, the university did not disclose the amount reached in the settlement but said both the school and the former students are pleased that the cases are not going to trial.
"USC and the students who made allegations against Dr. Dennis Kelly have reached a global settlement of the lawsuits. USC's highest commitment is to the safety and health of all members of the Trojan community, including the current and former students involved in this matter," the university said in its statement.
"Settling the cases provides closure for all involved and avoids several more years of litigation."
Both the university and Kelly deny the allegations, according to a joint statement obtained by NPR.
Last year, USC agreed to pay more than $850 million to hundreds of women who were treated by former campus gynecologist George Tyndall, whom they accuse of sexual misconduct.
The women say Tyndall, who worked at the school clinic for 30 years and was the only full-time gynecologist, made lewd comments, photographed the women and groped them during medical examinations.
In October 2018, the university agreed to a separate $215 million federal class-action settlement with more than 18,000 women who said they were also treated by Tyndall — bringing the total cost to more than $1 billion.
Tyndall, 75, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.